Children can learn so much through play. Unstructured play benefits kids' mental and physical health; it helps them make sense of the world around them through teaching boundaries and social interactions; and it's even good for you, too, mama. But how many toys do your little ones really need? And which ones will get played with the most?

When choosing toys for your baby and toddler, we like the less-is-more Montessori-inspired approach: fewer, higher quality toys, each with a purpose, made from mostly natural materials, that can grow along with your child. Clutter can be overwhelming for little ones, and the science tells us that children play longer and more happily with less toys.

We've chosen nine Montessori-inspired toys that will inspire imagination and encourage open-ended play from the baby years through toddlerhood and beyond. Your littles will come back to these toys again and again.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Barn + Animal Figurines

Realistic play is one of the tenants of Montessori-based education; it helps children relate to and understand the world around them and develop meaningful connections.

This beautiful wooden play barn and seven realistic animal figurines will capture the imaginations of babies, toddlers and preschoolers alike. It even folds and features a carry handle for easy take-along play!

$53.99

KidKraft Deluxe Wood Easel

Let your little artist's creativity flourish with this wooden double-sided easel that will take her from first scribbles to preschool masterpieces! This simple yet functional easel features a chalkboard, a whiteboard, a refillable paper dispenser, and two trays for storing paints and other art supplies. It's sure to become a playroom staple.

$103.77

Grimm's 6-Piece Rainbow Stacker

This rainbow may look basic, but through the eyes of your child, it offer endless opportunities for imaginative play! From early concepts like color identification and developing fine motor skills, to more advanced concepts like building, nesting, and pretend play, this simple, colorful—and so, so beautiful—heirloom-quality puzzle stacker will quickly become a playtime favorite. It's also available in a 12-piece larger size.

$40.00

Threeman Products Wooden Play Table

Exploration and activity are two important pieces of the Montessori philosophy—little hands should be encouraged to sort, pour, scoop and empty with all kinds of liquids and materials. This handcrafted sensory table made from natural pine is a great way to check all of those boxes and contain the mess 😉 It can be filled with sand, rice, or even hold trays of water for years of sensory play. It can even be personalized!

$159.99

Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon

Radio Flyer wagons have been around for decades—and for good reason. They're beautiful, fun, and functional, and can be enjoyed by babies and toddlers alike. We love the early walker take on this one, featuring "resist push" that allows beginning walkers to safely build confidence and balance. (We also love the furniture-friendly bumpers!) Once they learn to walk, they'll find still find lots of other uses for this classic toy.

$67.99

Smart Wallaby 15-Piece Musical Instruments Set + Carry Bag

Watch even the tiniest baby react to music and you'll immediately realize the powerful impact it can have on social, emotional and cognitive development. We love the huge variety of instruments in this 15-piece set, with everything from egg shakers for the littlest musicians to a xylophone and finger castanets for the preschool crowd. Sorry, earplugs not included 🤣

$20.99

The nugget play couch

Is it a couch? A bed? A spaceship? Or a castle? Only your little one will know the answer! Encouraging open-ended play is a Montessori must—and this ingenious kid-sized "couch" with four separate foam pieces offers endless play possibilities. Your little one will love that it's fun, soft, and endlessly rearrange-able, and you'll love that it's safe, free of harmful chemicals, and machine washable.

$229.00

EverEarth Jr. ramp racer

There's a simple delight in watching objects speeding down a ramp, and that joy is not lost on this classic toy. This ramp racer is not only fun, but teaches fine and gross motor skills, cause and effect, hand-eye coordination, and much more. Babies will laugh as the cars speed down the ramps, while toddlers and older kiddos will love engaging in pretend play and racing their cars over and over again.

$27.98

Soft Zone toddler blocks

Blocks are the ultimate in Montessori must-haves; they teach endless developmental concepts and provide hours upon hours of creative, open-ended play opportunities. For a different take on the classic block set that babies and older kiddos will love, we can't get enough of this set of oversize foam blocks. Made from soft, durable foam, your little ones will love building, stacking, and most importantly knocking down these super fun blocks for years.

$58.79

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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I'll admit it: I'm an earbud snob. There I said it. For me, there's nothing like clear, noise-canceling earbuds that allow me to fully immerse myself into music while doing household chores or mindless tasks. I love it. And if they're integrated with a voice assistant so I can be hands-free, it's a complete win-win.

When I was pregnant with my kids, I didn't want to purchase pregnancy headphones. Most are super bulky, overpriced and have horrible sound quality. Instead of buying them, I sang to my babies and hoped they would develop a love for music just like their mama. Turns out, I was onto something. "Even in the womb, little ones respond to the vibrations and later to the beats and melodies that you play for them," says Diana Spalding, author of The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey. "Research also shows that music can help build the foundation for your baby's language acquisition, so you can think of taking a moment to jam out to your favorite songs as educational."

Recently, model Ashley Graham posted on Instagram a photo of her using pregnancy earbuds and I had to do some research. How was she building her baby's language skills using earbuds?

"Baby boy is the size of a coconut this week and already getting some advice from @gayleking on my podcast @prettybigdealpod 💙 Gayle you are wild and I LOVE IT. We fast forwarded your story about the stripper pole 🤣" she captioned.

In the photo, Graham is using mbrio, a patented earbud adapter that turns your earbuds into pregnancy headphones so you can use your favorite earbuds while enjoying music with your baby. Pretty smart, right?

mbrio Clip-On Pregnancy Earbud Adapters

mbrio Clip-On Pregnancy Earbud Adapters

mbrio's patented earbud adapters turn your earbuds into pregnancy headphones. Just pop in any set of compatible earbuds, clip them to your waistband and go. It also uses a thin layer of silicone to reduce sound levels by up to 30 decibels (depending frequency and volume) so it's safe for mama and baby.

$29.95

It eliminates the need for splitters, sticky pads, volume control switches and iPhone plug adapters too so you can just carry one device while you're on the go. It's also been independently tested by a Nationally Registered Testing Laboratory, so it meets the safe audio guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Best of all, the ergonomic design adapts to mama's growing belly throughout the pregnancy. Just pop in any set of compatible earbuds, clip them to your waistband and go!

I'm still not a believer in headphones and still plan to use earbuds wherever I go, but if I ever get pregnant again, or need a cool baby shower gift, I know what to purchase.
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With so many toys out there, it can be hard to find intentional gifts for our children that are both fun and meaningful. Using a Montessori approach to your holiday shopping this year doesn't mean your choices need to be academic. There are plenty of Montessori-friendly toys that are beautiful and engaging, but also appeal to children's developmental needs.

Montessori toys are usually made from natural materials, non-electronic and foster independent play, creativity and concentration. Montessori materials are simple and somewhat minimalist in general, and this is especially true for infants and young toddlers. The world is so stimulating for these little ones already, that simple toys made of natural materials spark the child's curiosity without being overwhelming.

Here are some great options for the littlest ones on your list this year!

Black and white image cards

montessori kids gifts

As young babies can't yet see color, simple black and white images are the most striking to them. This set is great because the images can be used individually, or strung together into a book.

Age: 0-18 months

$15.99

Montessori mobiles

montessori kids gifts

While many mobiles are designed primarily to make the nursery look adorable, the traditional set of Montessori mobiles was developed specifically to provide the ideal level of visual stimulation at each stage for your growing baby.

Age: 0-18 months

$79.99

Activity gym

lovevery play gym

Many activity gyms can be overstimulating, but this one features wood and more muted colors and designs. It also converts into a little tent when baby is older and on the move.

Age: 0-18 months

$140

Wooden toy set

wooden toys for kids

These classic Montessori baby toys each isolate one concept that baby is working on, such as cause and effect (shaking a rattle), and in and out (placing a peg in a cup).

Age: 0-18 months

$26.19

Puzzle ball

montessori toy for kids

Puzzle balls are easy for babies to grasp and they don't roll too far. This encourages babies who are trying to learn to crawl, as the ball rolls just out of reach and they exert all their effort to scoot toward it.

Age: 0-18 months

$21.50

Object permanence box

montessori wooden toys

As your baby drops the ball into the hole, watches it disappear, and then finds it again, he learns that things do not necessarily disappear when he can't see them anymore.

Age: 0-18 months

$22.99

Global Babies book

montessori kids books

It is never too early to start reading to your baby and books that feature real images of people, nature and everyday items are a great place to start.

Age: 0-18 months

$5.99

Finger paints

crayola fingerpaint

As soon as your baby is sitting up independently, he can begin to enjoy finger painting, which is a wonderful sensory experience as well as an early introduction to creative art.

Age: 0-18 months

$16.83

Wooden shape puzzle

wooden toys for kids

This is a great first puzzle as it is made of beautiful wood and has only five pieces.

Age: 0-18 months

$23.71

Pop up toy

kids wooden toys

This toy is so simple, yet so entertaining for babies and young toddlers, who love practicing taking things out and putting them back in.

Age: 1-3 years old

$12.14

Watering can

kids watering can

A quality child-sized watering can is one of the earliest ways small children can help with yard work.

Age: 1-3 years old

$11.78

Mop and broom set

kids chore set

Toddlers love to help with whatever household chores you are doing. A mop and broom just their size allows them to clean alongside you.

Age: 1-3 years old

$23.99

Learning tower

kids learning tower

This enables your child to work with you at the kitchen counter. This particular model lets him climb in and out of the tower independently.

Age: 1-3 years old

$199.99

Pizza making set

kids pizza cooking set

Toddlerhood is the perfect time to introduce early kitchen skills, and what more fun way than making pizza together?

Age: 1-3 years old

$27.99

Hands Can book

kids books

This book features beautiful photos of children exploring, communicating, and showing kindness with their hands.

Age: 1-3 years old

$7.79

Wooden blocks

kids wooden blocks

Open-ended toys like wooden blocks encourage creativity and long stretches of concentration.

Age: 1-3 years old

$10.39

Musical instruments

kids musical intruments

Exploring rhythm and music together is a great activity for those cold winter months when outdoor play may be more limited.

Age: 1-3 years old

$29.99

Rainbow stacker

childrens rainbow stacker

This stacker looks beautiful on the shelf and also offers a challenge and introduces the concept of rainbow order.

Age: 1-3years old

$13.99

Easel

kids easel

An easel is ideal for early art work like finger painting and painting with large brushes.

Age: 1-3 years old

$69.99

Felt weather board

kids weather chart

As growing toddlers become increasingly aware of and interested in the wider world around them, the weather becomes a fascinating topic.

Age: 1-3 years old

$20.95

Primary lacing beads

kids counting beads

There are so many fun ways for your 3-year-old to play with these colorful beads and necklaces. They encourage fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and open-ended play.

Age: 3-6 years old

$12.49

Hammer toy

kids hammer toy

This early hammering work is great for hand-eye coordination and introducing a real life skill. This one provides a greater challenge.

Age: 3-6 years old

$22.98

Pattern blocks or pattern play

kids pattern blocks

Exploring patterns is highly engaging and great for pre-math skills.

Age: 3-6 years old

$17.59

Parts of the body layered puzzles

kids learning puzzle

These challenging puzzles depict the human body in layers, from a skeleton all the way to a fully dressed child.

Age: 3-6 years old

$39.99

Memory game

kids memory game

Memory game is a wonderful gift that grows with your child, as younger children enjoy simply examining and matching the pictures and older children love the actual game.

Age: 3-6 years old

$18.75

Young carpenter's set

kids carpenters set

Once a child can be safe and in control, giving him real tools builds his confidence and allows him to participate in purposeful work.

Age: 3-6 years old

$11.89

Bingo

kids butterfly bingo book

Simple games like bingo allow young children to practice playing a game with friends, including how to win and lose graciously.

Age: 3-6 years old

$14.93

Fun with magnets set

fun with magnets set

Toys that support scientific exploration encourage your child to be his own teacher and keep his curiosity alive.

Age: 3-6 years old

$17.63

Yoga pretzels with yoga mat

kids yoga mat

Yoga helps children learn self-regulation, calming breathing techniques and control of their bodies. Bonus: Add these yoga cards!

Age: 3-6 years old

$14.28

Japanese brush painting set

Japanese brush painting set

Calming activities like Japanese brush painting help children in Montessori classrooms learn to be peaceful and can do the same in your home.

Age: 5 years old+

$34.95

Origami set

kids origami kit

Origami encourages development of spacial skills and a different way of thinking and children love seeing all of the things they can create with just paper.

Age: 3-6 years old

$13.46

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Can you believe it's already time to start decorating for the holidays? And this year, Target is making it easier than ever to create inviting holiday spaces that are still neat, organized and clutter-free. Whether your style is whimsical, traditional or rustic, there are plenty of neutral creams, frosty whites and touches of evergreen that will take you through the holidays and well into the new year with style.

This holiday also marks the 3-year anniversary of the launch of Joanna Gaines' Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line. The collection features nearly 300 new pieces from gifting and décor to entertaining. Oh, and this season they have faux Christmas trees!

Ready to create your own modern winter wonderland at home? Grab our favorite minimalist piece:

Joy wire Christmas wreath

Joy wire Christmas wreath

The word "Joy" isn't a holiday classic for nothing—it's sure to bring lots of smiles and laughs to any home. And when it's atop the garland in this festive wreath, it's an instant pick-me-up. Plus, for an extra twist: This comes pre-strung with white LED bulbs for a little light to brighten dark spaces.

$45

Mini cable-knit stocking

Mini cable-knit stocking

This stocking brings simplistic holiday cheer to just about any living space. This mini size is perfect for little ones or if you just want stockings that don't take up too much space.

$4

Faux white pine garland

Faux white pine garland

Bring the outdoors indoors with a garland that can be framed around your door. Or add holiday spirit to your table runner with a garland centerpiece. We love how realistic this one looks for such an affordable price.

$24.99

Whitewash advent calendar

Whitewash advent calendar

Let's be honest, advent calendars are nice, but some have gone a bit overboard in how complicated they are. But not this one. The cutout shape of a tree features rows of numbers, while a roaming wreath moves the countdown along. Simple, yet chic.

$20

Round tree skirt

Round tree skirt

No tree is complete without a beautiful tree skirt. This striped one is a must-have for a farmhouse-inspired atmosphere. Even better if you want a splash of rustic charm that matches your other holiday décor.

$39.99

Mini marquee star wall sign

Mini marquee star wall sign

Brighten up your living room with this attention-grabbing statement piece. Hang the star sign on your entryway wall to help welcome guests, or place it on your mantel, shelf or end table alongside other accents to add touches of holiday cheer in a minimalist way.

$8

Ceramic house decorative figurine

Ceramic house decorative figurine

This tiny house with windows, door and a chimney lends realistic, whimsical appeal, but the solid ceramic design allows it to be used from season to season. Place a small light inside to light up your mantle when standard candles won't suffice.

$8

Wood garland

Wood garland

Sometimes less is more! Upgrade your staircase or tree with this simplistic wooded garland. Pair with fresh cedar and grapevine twigs to create a striking focal point on your home.

$12.99

Joy wall decor

Joy wall decor

Create holiday cheer in a small way by adding holiday wall art that sparks a bit of joy.

For a refined look, the decor offers a hardwood frame and the sawtooth back allows for easy display on tiny spaces that need a touch of holiday spirit.

$9.99

Stocking holder

Stocking holder

Minimalists will rejoice for this multi-tasking stocking holder—acting as both festive signage and a holder for multiple stockings. It's simple, charming and will look great on your mantle for years to come.

$29.99
Holiday Shopping Guides

Do you feel it?

That little spark ✨ in the air that only comes around this time of year is starting to buzz and pop around us. There's nothing quite like the joy and excitement that comes with counting down to the holidays—especially with your kids who think last Christmas was forever ago.

And what better way to count down to Christmas than with an Advent calendar? We've rounded up our favorites that you can use year after year, mama.

House advent calendar

It's perfectly neutral to go with any type of holiday decor, but is made to bring a spark of magic and fun as your kids rush each morning to find out what's inside the tiny drawers.

$55.30

Advent calendar wreath

This has to be the most unique advent calendar we've ever seen. We love everything about it: The simple metal hoop, the greenery and the 24 kraft boxes that can be filled with goodies for both adults and kids. It's so pretty, we might even leave it up past Christmas!

$35

Countdown to Christmas advent calendar

We love that you can fill this one with your own treats that can change as your kids grow. And it doesn't have to be sweets. It can be filled with stickers, little toys, handmade goodies and more.

$38

Modern farmhouse Christmas countdown

No treats required for this simple, beautiful sign.

$34.95

Metal advent calendar

This sleek metal sign comes with 25 small muslin bags and 30 cards you can tuck into each one. The cards have an activity or kind gesture you and your kids can do to celebrate the season.

$40

Ernie and Irene llama advent calendar

Add a touch of whimsy and coziness with this sweet calendar featuring a knit llama.

$128

DIY advent calendar kit

For the crafty mamas in the group, this sweet kit has everything you and your family need to create your advent calendar together. Once you've assembled all the houses, you can fill it with whatever treats your family will love.

$36

Customizable advent calendar

This sweet and modern fabric calendar can be customized with your family name or cherished holiday phrase. It also comes with a set of 24 activity cards you can pop into each pocket.

$107

Clever Creations traditional wooden Christmas advent calendar

Clever Creations Traditional Wooden Christmas Advent Calendar

This beautiful calendar is a showpiece. It lights up to create a cozy and festive scene.

$43

Light-up stacking house glitter advent calendar

Enjoy a tower of pre-lit cottages that will light up your home each day leading up to Christmas.

$149

My Kindness advent calendar

My Kindness Advent Calendar

The holidays are all about giving—and that doesn't stop with just material items. We can give in the form of kindness every single day, and this calendar helps us do just that.

$75

Blue and gray Christmas socks advent calendar garland

We love the twist on a traditional calendar with this sweet garland of 24 stockings.

$29.69

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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